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Sauber launch: Wehrlein out of Sauber F1 test, Giovinazzi called up

Sauber's Pascal Wehrlein confirms he has not recovered from a back injury and will be forced to skip the opening F1 test.
Antonio Giovinazzi has been called up to drive with Sauber during the first pre-season Formula 1 test in Spain after Pascal Wehrlein was ruled out with a back injury.

Wehrlein's participation has been in doubt ever since he suffered a dramatic barrel-roll incident during the Race of Champions last month, with Sauber confirming last week he was being assessed by doctors. Though he was originally reported as suffering a neck injury, Wehrlein says he in fact has a back injury.

The German has now confirmed that he will be forced to sit out the first test, with GP2 runner-up and new Ferrari test driver Giovinazzi set to be drafted in the drive the new C36 at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Wehrlein – who switches to Sauber after a season with Manor – was hurt in a bizarre incident as he raced against F1 rival Felipe Massa in a Polaris Slingshot SLR, clipping a foam barrier as they crossed the finish line, which would take him across into his rival and topple over as it rebounded (video below).

Wehrlein's absence means Giovinazzi is set to get an unexpected opportunity to drive a 2017 specification car out of the box, two months after he joined Ferrari as its test and reserve. The highly-rated Italian has conducted a handful of tests in former specification Ferrari, but this will be his first test a 'latest' machine.

With this year's cars expected to be more physical on the drivers caution has been taken with Wehrlein as a result.

Much anticipation surrounds the launch of the C36 which will be the first of the new era of F1 car to be revealed on Monday 20th February, ahead of most rivals.

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